Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

10 July 2006

History Boys

It should surprise no one that though The History Boys is indeed about boys, it is only fleetingly about history. Alan Bennett's play (which won the Tony this year), is, more than anything else, an exercise in Stoppardisms and artistic references: many of them (disappointingly? predictably?) Shakespearean. Bennett clearly idolizes both Stoppard and Shakespeare, appears to show a slight contempt for Housman (whom Stoppard loves: odd), thinks a good deal of Auden, and enjoys Henry VIII—if not his political decisions, at least his sexual exploits.
But the play falters. Its heady atmosphere and quick-witted pace cannot sustain itself for two acts and Bennett mostly drops the style of writing he has adopted in Act One for a more serious, plot driven Act Two. I found the contrast more than slightly jarring and I liked the play less for it.
I guess the play's worth reading. Be warned though, The History Boys floated over my head on occasion in Act One and once or twice in Act Two (after Bennett has mostly stopped showing off) so the play isn't for everyone.